Star Hall Building sealed, eviction notice to shop owners

Star Hall Building sealed, eviction notice to shop owners
Wed, Nov 7, 2018

GANGTOK: Shops in Star Hall building in New Market here were vacated on Monday afternoon by the authorities led by SDM (headquarters) Sunil Kumar Mothay on grounds of violation of Sikkim Public Premises (1980) Act. The shop owners were issued a notice from the east district magistrate to vacate the premises and seal the building which is a property of the State Urban Development department since 2015.
SIKKIM EXPRESS spoke to the shop owners and the SDM on Tuesday and then reached out to Gangtok Municipal Corporation (GMC) and Urban Development department at their respective office premises. Here is what they had to say…

East District Collectorate
SDM Sunil Kumar Mothay who conducted the evacuation of shop owners on Monday shared that he was following orders from the district magistrate who is the final authority under the SPP Act on Tuesday. He stated, "The district magistrate was approached by the Urban Development department on August 6 for eviction under the SPP Act. We issued a show cause notice on September 7 and accordingly called for hearing on September 28 between the DM, UDHD and the shop owners. However, the representative of Mayalang Cooperative was the only one present and he agreed to vacate the premises within 7 days. We even issued another notice to other two occupants who were not present, to vacate the premises within 15 days. We further sent them a notice with eviction order on October 28 which was to be pasted on the door of the shops.”
The SDM further mentioned, “The reason given to us by the Urban Development department was on the grounds of running business and occupying government space without valid permission. If there is no valid trade license and there is no permission from Urban Development department then they are to be evicted under the SPP Act. Upon being evicted, they can take their belongings along or if they leave it behind, an inventory has to be made, and the property has to be sealed. A date will be issued by the DM when they can take back their belongings, but until then the property remains sealed".
It was informed that the district magistrate has the powers and needs to act upon as per the SPP Act on requisition received by the Urban Development department for eviction of illegal occupants of government property. It was maintained that the Star Hall is a property owned by Urban Development department and the occupants are illegally staying there since the temporary permission given to them was not renewed and expired some time back.

The shop owners
Six shops under the Mayalang Construction and Service Cooperative Society function on the roadside towards Nam Nam road, two restaurants in the first floor – Wachipa Corner and Buddha Café – function under the name of Sunil Lama. Diet And Brewery (DAB) and Spooky Mirror Maze, in the first and second floor function under Aasique Sai Tamang's name.
The shop owners under Mayalang and Sunil Lama interacted with SIKKIM EXPRESS.
“We have been allotted the premises where our restaurants function from the Urban Development department since January 1, 2015. We were issued a trade license from GMC on August 19, 2015. With the allotment having the criteria for renewal annually, our license under the GMC was also issued on an annual basis. The renewal was done once on November 11, 2016 which was scheduled to expire on March 31, 2017. But despite reaching out to both UDHD and GMC, our request for renewal was rejected", stated Kushal Rai of Wachipa Corner.
“The first notice issued was in March 2017 which was directed to all the occupants of Star Hall building to vacate the building. We learned that the building would be dismantled and be awarded to a Kolkata-based firm for the construction of parking space and a mall in the premises. From then on there was no further notice, until the district magistrate issued us a notice on September 28 stating that we were illegal occupants running business in a government property. It was deemed as a violation of Sikkim Public Premises Act (SPPA) and was the first and final notice issued to us”, stated Raj Mohan Pradhan of Buddha Café.
The shop owners claimed they reached out to DC (East) Kapil Meena after the notice was issued. "The DC promised us of a second hearing on the issue. We also told him, that our letter may have been directed to Sunil Lama, who mostly stays outside of the State, hence the notices in between may not have been received. But before the second hearing was conducted, we were issued a notice from GMC on November 2 to vacate the premises within 24 hours. Following which, we were told to vacate the premises with a different order from DC which saw us as illegal occupants under the SPP Act", stated Kushal Rai.
They questioned how the notices changed from vacating the building as it was being dismantled to them being illegal occupants. They further questioned the authorities on when they can return to their shops, and how the notices have different reasons to vacate from different authorities.

The Gangtok Municipal Corporation led by commissioner Tsewang Gyachho and deputy commissioner S. Chopel mentioned that the trade license issued to the shop owners was on the grounds of allotment order issued by the Urban Development department. They stated, “The shop owners there were issued a temporary license on August 8, 2016 which was valid till January 1, 2017. These temporary licenses are valid for six months and as such a renewal was done on February 1, 2017 which was valid till July 31, 2017. We issued them a notice under Sikkim Trade License and Miscellaneous Provisions Rule (2011) on August 30, 2017. We couldn’t renew their license as they did not have allotment order from UDH department.”
“On November 1, 2018 we issued them a notice to stop from running business, as they were continuing their business even after expiry of trade license. They were to take their belongings within 24 hours, but we granted them 4 days’ time. We were taking our own action while the DC and UDH department were taking their own action. The only basis for the seizure of the shop was on the grounds of them running business without a valid trade license", stated the deputy commissioner who was present during the eviction on Monday.
The GMC claimed that the decision to seal the building was taken by the district magistrate, police officials and Urban Development department.

Senior officials from the Urban Development department claimed to have not allotted the premises to the shop owners and that they were running business and unauthorized occupation of a government property belonging to the Urban Development department. They stated, "We have no records to present currently as the eviction has been carried out by the District Magistrate. The procedure is still under way and a final statement to the issue will be issued by the DM. From the department, ample notices were sent to the shop owners to vacate, a notice under sub-section 1 of section 4 was issued on September 7. We issued them a notice on September 28 to vacate the building. Yet, they continued to stay".
A final statement from the department would be released after Diwali holidays.

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